5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Heart Health

Learn how owning or fostering a pet may have a positive impact on your heart health.

The wonderful thing about pets (other than their unconditional love) is that they may reduce your risk of developing a heart problem and help you live a longer, happier life with an existing heart condition. Here are five ways that an animal companion may impact your lifestyle for the good of your heart.


It’s no secret that an active lifestyle is a powerful part of disease prevention. Bringing a companion into your routine can boost your activity level almost immediately, and dog owners generally walk much more than others.

Stress relief

Studies have found that petting and cuddling your pet can relax you on a hormonal level. Not only does your body begin to release oxytocin, but your level of cortisol (the stress hormone) may start to dip. Simply watching fish swim in an aquarium can be enough to calm your mind and body.

Research on how much stress directly impacts heart disease is ongoing, but one fact is clear: the adrenaline-fueled, hormone-inducing stress response can lead you to cope in unhealthy ways (like with smoking, heavy drinking, or overeating) that can certainly impact your heart.

Immune response

Although some people struggle with itchy eyes and a runny nose when a dog or cat is near, pet dander may not be the enemy we think it is. Some research suggests that being around a pet may actually give your immune system a boost, and one study has shown a link between exposure to cats early in life and a lower risk of developing asthma later.

Of course, if you know you’re allergic to certain animals, don’t torture yourself. Pet ownership might not be your best bet.

Better mood

Not only will they bring a smile to your face, pets can bring a whole new sense of meaning to your life.

Pet owners are generally happier and more trusting than others, and that contentment and confidence can make its way into other parts of your routine. Since there’s a clear relationship between depression and heart disease, maintaining a positive outlook and a happy demeanor with the help of a pet can have a short- and long-term impact on your heart.

Social time

Loneliness can have a measurable impact on your mental, emotional, and even your physical wellbeing. A recent study found that loneliness was linked to a lower quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease.

The companionship of an animal can bring immediate and ongoing relief from that lonely feeling, especially when you live alone. But your pet can also be a wonderful bridge to social interaction. You’ll find that walking your dog draws friendly conversation and interaction that helps connect you to your community.